Tips for Writers: Tip #4 Hiring an Editor

Since of all the aspects of publishing I know the most about editing, I want to talk about how to hire an editor who’s right for you. Editors are busy people. Freelancers usually have to work every day to make ends meet, so their time is valuable, just as yours is. What I’ve found is that freelancers spend a lot of time looking for work, but when they have work to do, they do it well. Editing isn’t as simple or as easy as many people make it out: it’s not just the nuts and bolts of grammar, syntax, punctuation, and spelling. Editing, quite simply, is about how best to craft and communicate the author’s ideas, and the creative ways of communicating those ideas through the various components of storytelling.

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So, before you communicate your ideas to your readers, you have to hire your most important reader—your editor. As discussed in Tip #3, there are three types of editing, and you need to first figure out what type of editing your manuscript needs, if not each kind (you may have had it edited in some form already): developmental, line, or copy editing. Once you know this, you can search for a qualified editor with those skills.

Editors are human beings—they are often very busy working on multiple projects ranging from 200 to 600 pages, or more, and on various deadlines ranging from eight days to one month, depending on which publisher they are freelancing for. Also, when working for a major trade publisher they are being paid by the hour, anywhere from twenty to forty dollars, and so these books will take precedence in their workload. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have the time or interest to work on books by independent authors hoping to self-publish or submit their manuscript to an agent or a publisher.

I like working with private clients, but the majority of clients I’ve contacted via Craigslist, for instance, do not understand that editors have multiple projects quite often and need to get paid to make ends meet as all individuals do. Many authors I’ve spoken to want their books edited for free (especially by a college student for whom it will “look good” on their résumé), to barter for a service, want to pay a percentage of future royalties, or are only interested in offering $100 for editing a 300+ page book. And they also want their book edited in less than two weeks. Unfortunately, if you want a professional editor to work on your book you are going to have to pay them a realistic fee. An editor’s time is worth the money they are paid, and even more. Editors usually charge per a set number of words or per page. I charge by the latter. They also charge anywhere from one to four dollars per page. And most editors will be willing to negotiate their fee, and even work out a payment plan if needed. One option is to pay half the fee up front and the rest once your editor has returned the manuscript. Another option is to pay the fee in parts every two weeks until it is paid in full.

As for the turnaround time on your book, unless the editor has no other projects lined up, one week is not going to happen, realistically speaking, unless you’re okay with receiving a poorly edited manuscript. If they have one or two projects they are currently working on, then you will need to give them at least three weeks to edit your book.

So, when you’re looking to hire an editor, there are a few things you should remember:
• editing isn’t simple or easy,
• you must pay your editor, an appropriate fee and in a timely fashion, and
• you must allow your editor enough time to work on your project, two to three weeks is normal, especially when he or she is working on other projects. Deadlines are an editor’s worst enemy, so help yours out by understanding that they have them and need to meet them.

I know you want to get your book published right away because you have a great idea, a great story to tell, and want to make money, but editing is not fast or easy work, it is often slow-going depending on the subject and its complexity, the narrative flow, and the many mistakes present, and there will be many, more than you realize. Quite often several drafts of your book will be needed before it’s ready for self-publishing or submission to an agent or a publisher. Even seasoned authors, with a dozen books or more to their name, are heavily edited. Unlike Athena born fully formed from the head of Zeus, no manuscript is born perfectly written in its first draft.

All of these aspects (an editor’s time, expertise, and financial needs) must be taken into consideration when hiring an editor, and this consideration is of the utmost importance in how you work with your editor.

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